Probably more important to the program than almost every player on my Top 5 list....
Ace was a multi-sport star at Duke during the mid 1930s. He was on the Philadelphia A's for 38 games in 1937 and 56 games in 1938. That was the end of his baseball career. One could argue that 90 some games is not really much to go on in terms of evaluating the quality of play. However, when Ace walked away from baseball it was to play football in the NFL. He won the 1940 NFL MVP and managed to put together a good enough career on the gridiron that he was inducted into the Football Hall of Fame in 1972. Probably a good decision on his part.
Parker returned to Durham after his football career and initially worked as the manager of the Durham Bulls. He also had a side job during the fall as an assistant coach on Duke's football team. Eventually, Parker took over the coaching duties of the Duke baseball team in 1953. He retired from coaching baseball in 1966. Interestingly, he remained on the football coaching staff the entire time that he was also the head baseball coach. During his time at Duke, Parker coached the Blue Devils to three ACC Championships, a Southern Conference Championship (Pre-ACC), and two appearances in the College World Series.
I am not sure how many people outside of central North Carolina know the name Ace Parker, I didn't before I moved here, but he is a tremendously important sports figure from the 1930, 40s, and 50s who had a huge impact on the school. The numbers on his baseball card are not as good as the rest of the people on this list, but he's one of the most important figures in the history of Duke's athletic program.
Coombs actually went to college at a small school in Maine before he spent 14 years playing in the Majors with A's, Dodgers, and Tigers. His best years were during the first half of his career with the A's. The team was loaded with Hall of Famers including Chief Bender, Frank "Home Run" Baker, Eddie Plank, and Eddie Collins. The team won back to back World Series in 1910 and 1911. Coombs led the American League in wins during both seasons. He won 3 of the 4 games needed to win the 1910 World Series against the Cubs, and added another victory during the following season's Series against the Giants.
After Coombs retired from baseball, he ended up at Duke as the baseball coach. In all, he coached the Blue Devils for 24 years and retired with a .636 winning percentage. Coombs helped the Blue Devils win the Southern Conference, the ACC had not been formed at that point, six times and advance to the College World Series twice.
Again, not a Duke baseball player, but a very important person to the program. The modern Blue Devils split their games between the Durham Bulls Athletic Park and their on-campus baseball stadium, which bears the name of Jack Coombs. There is a statue of the long time coach outside the stadium.
5. Chris Capuano
Capuano is a native of Springfield, Massachusetts native who pitched at Duke in the late 1990s. He earned an Economics degree while he was in Durham. Originally drafted by the Diamondbacks, he was traded to the Brewers for Richie Sexson. In all, Capuano spent 12 years in the Major Leagues between 2003 and 2016, half of that time was spent in Milwaukee. His two best seasons were in 2005 and 2006. In 2005, he won 18 games, pitched more than 200 innings, and set a career high with 176 strikeouts. In 2006, Capuano was named to the National League All-Star team, and duplicated his innings pitched and strikeout numbers.
Capuano did not appear in a Major League game in 2008 or 2009 after undergoing Tommy John surgery. The Brewers released him and then resigned him to a Minor League contract allowing him to work his way back up to the Majors through their system. He returned in the middle of the 2010 season. At the end of the season, Capuano signed with the Mets as a free agent. He also spent time during the second half of his career with the Dodgers, Red Sox, and Yankees before returning to the Brewers for 16 games in 2016.
4. Marcus Stroman
I think the first two or three times I saw Marcus Stroman play for Duke he was a second baseman. He starred for Duke for three years between 2010 and 2012, obviously he ended up becoming a star pitcher for the Blue Devils. I first saw his pitching skills on display at USA Baseball's College National Team. The Blue Jays made him the 22nd overall pick during the 2012 MLB Draft. Obviously, he is not very far into his career, but I would guess he should be 2nd on the list if I revisited it in a few years.
Stroman has only played three full seasons with the Jays and has already won 37 games, had a pair of 200 inning seasons, and two seasons with more than 150 strikeouts. He pitched a few games during the 2015 season, had a knee injury that shut him down for the year, but he just went back to Duke and finished the final year of his degree program.
Last season Stroman was a real bright spot for the Blue Jays. He ended the seasons at 13-9 with a 3.09 ERA, and 164 strikeouts in 201 innings. Stroman also won the Gold Glove Award for American League pitchers flashing some of those glove skills that I got to watch back when he was at Duke...
Again, early in his career, but Stroman has the potential to be one of the top two players on this list in the long run. Someone might argue that Dick Groat has a bunch of World Series rings, that was anticlimactic to give away the top player on the list, but Marcus Stroman led the Majors last year in most appearances in rap videos.
3. Ron Northey
Ron Northey played for several different teams during the 1940s and 50s. He played baseball at Duke in the late 1930s and was actually hard of hearing in one ear because of a bean ball incident from his time in Durham. Northey started his journey through the Minor Leagues in the early 1940s, reaching the Majors with the Phillies during the 1942 season. The Navy found him unfit for duty twice due to his hearing loss. Eventually the Army drafted him in 1945 and he was stationed out of Fort Lewis, Washington.
Before his time with the Army Northey had improved drastically each of his three seasons with the Phillies. In 1942, he hit only 5 home runs with a .250/.300/.331 slash line. His 1943 season was a little better, but 1944 showed that he had the talent to be an All-Star caliber player. That season he hit 22 home runs, 104 RBIs, 9 triples, 35 doubles, and posted a .288/.367/.496 slash line. He finished in the top 10 in dozens of offensive categories that season.
The post-war version of Northey was not able to match his production from his 1944 season. In 1946 he only managed 16 home runs with a .249 average playing full time with the Phillies. The Phillies eventually traded him to the Cardinals where he found a niche as a part-time player with pop off of the bench.
In 1947, the Cardinals gave him 361 plate appearances and he put up 15 home runs and 19 doubles with a .321 average. He followed with similar lines for the Cardinals the following season before falling off with the home run totals and average during the 1949 season. Northey spent the later years of his career bouncing around between the Reds, Cubs, White Sox, and made his way back to the Phillies before retiring as a player in 1957.
After his playing career Northey worked as a scout and coach, including a stint with the Pirates in the early 1960s.
2. Bill Werber
Werber was a two sport star during his time at Duke and was actually the first All-American basketball player at Duke. He led the Blue Devils basketball team to the Southern Conference Basektball Championship game twice. They lost both games, but it was a pretty remarkable feat to even get that far considering the team had exactly five players.
The losses came against Alabama and NC State who, according to local legend, decided that having five starting players and a few substitute players was a better way to win stuff with your basketball team.
Werber played three season on Duke's baseball team under the aforementioned Jack Coombs. He hit .400 each of his three seasons on the baseball team. After graduation he joined the Yankees, whom he had toured with as an amateur player in 1927 before attending college. Werber played a total of 7 games with the team between two stints with the team in 1930 and 1933. During his first at-bat he drew a walk, but quickly scored his first Major League run when Babe Ruth hit a home run as the next batter.
Werber lived to be 100 and was the last living teammate of Ruth's at the time of his death in 2009.
As for the rest of his Major League career, Werber went on to spent time with the Red Sox, Reds, A's, and Giants. He led the American League in stolen bases three different times during the 1930s, twice with Boston and another time with Philadelphia. Probably the best accomplishment of Werber's Major League career was his appearance in back to back World Series with the Reds. The 1939 squad lost to the Yankees in four straight games. The 1940 squad did better, beating the Tigers in a seven game series. Werber hit .370 and scored 5 runs for the Reds.
1. Dick Groat
Werber was the first All-American at Duke, but Dick Groat was the first Duke basketball player to have his jersey in the rafters of Cameron Indoor. He was an All-American basketball player twice and played one year of basketball in the NBA with the Pistons. All of this time Groat also was playing baseball. His first season with the Pirates was in 1952. Groat played 95 games that summer before missing the 1953 and 1954 seasons due to military service during the Korean War.
He returned to the Pirates for the 1955 season and his career took off over the next few seasons. In 1957, Groat finished in the top 5 in batting in the National League behind some other decent players: Stan Musial, Willie Mays, Hank Aaron, and Frank Robinson. He made his first All-Star team in 1959 and in 1960 won the National League MVP while helping the Pirates win the World Series.
Groat made three more All-Star teams in the early 1960s and finished second in MVP voting in 1963 while playing for the Cardinals. The following season, in 1964, he helped the Cardinals win the World Series against the Yankees. He ended his Major League career by playing a few years with the Phillies, and a final season with the Giants in 1967.
He's also had a fairly successful career post-baseball too. in 1979, Groat was hired as a radio broadcaster for the Pitt Panthers basketball games. In recent years, he has stopped working most of their road games, but still can be heard when Pitt plays home games.